No headway on Ujh Multipurpose Project despite preparation of DPR by CWC, Cabinet approval

Entire process remains struck over issue of dam’s height

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, June 13: Notwithstanding the urgency shown by the Prime Minister’s Office, no headway could be made on Ujh Multipurpose Project in Kathua district even after the preparation of Detailed Project Report by the Central Water Commission and approval of the State Cabinet due to lack of consensus among State and Central agencies over the height of the dam.
Official sources told EXCELSIOR that the project of immense importance was mooted in the year 2001 and accordingly the process of conducting different studies and obtaining clearances from all the relevant quarters was set into motion.
However, completion of this process took unreasonably long time and thereafter the State Government stopped showing interest in the project although it was declared as National Water Resources Project by the Union Cabinet in the year 2006 with the assurance that 90% cost will be provided as Central Grant and rest of the 10% will be borne by the State Government from its own resources.
Early last year the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) started intervening for giving necessary push to the project with the aim to optimally utilize every drop of water flowing through eastern river system for the benefit of the people. On July 3, 2017 Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister asked the Chief Secretary of the State to convey willingness of the State Government to the Union Government for the execution of project, sources informed.
Keeping in view the instructions of the PMO, the State Cabinet in its meeting held on August 9, 2017 accorded in principle approval to the execution of the project subject to certain conditions including reducing height of the dam to ensure minimum displacement/dislocation of the inhabitants of the areas falling under the project.
The Cabinet authorized the Irrigation and Flood Control Department to finalize the Detailed Project Report in consultation with the Central Water Commission and concretize the Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of India for execution of the project.
On December 28, 2017, the new DPR of the Ujh project was submitted by the Central Water Commission (CWC) to the State Government for latter’s appraisal. As per the DPR, the project will store around 0.65 MAF of water of river Ujh, a tributary of Ravi River to irrigate 30,000 hectares of land and generate more than 200 Mega Watts of hydropower.
“However, no further progress could be made till date for want of consensus over the height of the dam of the project, which has not been reduced in the revised DPR by the CWC although State Cabinet had laid enough stress on the same so as to minimize the area which will come under submergence”, sources said.
“The revised DPR submitted by the CWC is still under examination and we have sought the comments of the Power Development Department, which is also the stakeholder”, said M Raju, Commissioner Secretary to Government, Irrigation and Flood Control Department while disclosing that all the conditions laid down by the State Cabinet have not been taken care of by the CWC in the revised DPR.
The Irrigation and Flood Control Secretary could not specify any time-frame for resolving the issue of dam height and conveying formal consent to the Union Water Resources Ministry for execution of the project.
The Commissioner Secretary to Government, Power Development Department Hirdesh Kumar Singh, when approached, said, “we have already communicated to the Irrigation and Flood Control Department that we will provide necessary support as far as component of generation of hydropower is concerned”, adding “since Irrigation and Flood Control is the nodal department the issues concerning the project will have to be tackled by it only”.
“It is a matter of concern that even after showing of urgency by the Prime Minister’s Office issues relating to this vital project have yet not been resolved and lack of coordination between State and Central agencies is still prevailing”, sources remarked.
It is pertinent to mention here that Standing Committee on Water Resources of Lok Sabha in its 16th report tabled in the Parliament in the month of March 2017 had also expressed concern over inordinate delay in start of work on the National Project.